… on how HIV stigma is still killing people, by: CLÁUDIO

A note from Cláudio

Wednesday April 05, 2023, in Lisbon, Portugal

“I saved all the bottles of my HIV medication. I think I only ‘lost’ a couple. And some I’m using to mix paint. I can’t throw them away. I feel like I should save them until the end of my days. I just wish people had no fear or shame to check themselves up. I can’t change people’s minds. Or can we? Why can’t we speak freely about HIV? Why do we keep it a secret? What will become an enemy if the virus isn’t one? Will we miss anything worth keeping? If we be open about the subject and people step away from our lives because they discriminate against us, those are people not worth keeping. A friend of mine died in 2017. He had lung cancer and HIV. He stopped taking medication out of shame for going to the pharmacy and the doctor’s appointment. He was one of my best friends. He knew I was positive and it took him almost two years to tell me he was positive as well. It happened three times that I woke up in the middle of the night crying because of this. Dreaming about him. I still cry today. It shouldn’t be like this, but it is. So, we should keep working towards a better place. Stop the stigma. Stop the shame. Don’t get hurt, you’re doing nothing wrong.”

Words by Cláudio Filipe Vieira, all photos courtesy of Cláudio

Cláudio (36) lives in Lisbon and works as an artist. This painting is his favorite so far. The soundtrack to his life is Lullaby, by Low: “Melancholic but not miserable”, he says.